Welcome from the PAN Director 


I hope you enjoyed last month’s inaugural newsletter and learned more about the Parent Action Network (PAN). PAN remained busy throughout April, making connections at the first Annual SAM Summit and Good Drug Policy Conference, preparing our Monthly webinar series, and providing support to groups and individuals throughout the country!

L-R: PAN Project Coordinator Bronwen Skinner; Jennifer's Messengers Director Corinne LaMarca; SAM Co-Founder and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy; PAN Director Crissy Broenewegen

Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, this month’s newsletter will focus on the negative effects that marijuana and its derivatives have on mental health. newsletter will focus on the negative effects that marijuana and its derivatives have on mental health. This month’s newsletter will feature an article by renowned child psychiatrist, Dr. Christian Thurstone, and commentary by Corinne LaMarca on a host of articles about the association between marijuana and mental health. 


As PAN continues to strengthen connections and educate communities on the harms of marijuana, we will begin this month by introducing the first of our webinar series. This month’s webinar, The Low-Down on High-Potency THC and the Associated Mental Health Risks, will feature Laura Stack of Johnny’s Ambassadors; Donna Thomas of James’s Warriors; and Dr. Libby Stuyt as they discuss how high-potency THC forever changed their lives and how they are turning their tragedies into learning opportunities for all. 


Last month, we issued our Parent Action Network Interest Survey. If you haven’t participated already, we encourage you to do so. Your participation in the survey helps us to know how we can best serve your needs and accommodate your interests. We are also interested in hearing your stories and connecting you with a community of advocates with shared experiences and concerns. We have already received more than 100 responses, and these responses indicate that many of you are concerned about mental health effects. We are listening to what you have to say! Please check out our social media posts on Facebook and Twitter for more facts and information about the health-related harms of marijuana. 


A lot has been happening across the country, so we will also provide state and national updates and highlight our Pantastic advocates in action! 


We appreciate you taking the time to read our newsletter. Please feel free to reach out with any feedback or suggestions at [email protected].

Thank you for supporting the Parent Action Network! 

Crissy Groenewegen 

Director of PAN 

PAN Survey

As the Parent Action Network continues to build our network, we want to hear from YOU! We want to hear your stories, learn more about what you already know, and learn what you want to know about marijuana legalization and the effects it is having on you, your families, your neighborhoods, and our society.  


Please take a few minutes to complete the Parent Action Network Interest Survey so that you can help better the work of the Parent Action Network!  

Noteworthy Resources

International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis (IASIC)

Since this month’s webinar features Dr. Libby Styut, a member of the Leadership Board of Directors of IASIC, we thought it only to fitting to feature them as our noteworthy resource. IASIC is an organization of international experts on cannabis who are guided by medicine and science to provide accurate and honest information that guides decision-making. They recognize that the use of cannabis is harmful, and that policies or practices that increase the use of cannabis risk serious medical and social consequences.  


James’s Warriors is a non-profit organization that provides resources to those affected by suicide through public awareness and education. They aim to bring change to the way mental health is perceived, reduce the stigma surrounding it, and prevent suicide. 


Johnny’s Ambassadors is on a mission to educate teens, parents, and communities about the dangers of today’s high-THC marijuana on adolescent brain development, mental illness, and suicide. They focus on youth marijuana awareness, prevention, and education. Primarily, they share data-driven facts and clear messaging with teens and parents to reduce the likelihood they will use marijuana and stop progression to more problematic use.

Monthly Feature

Christian Thurstone, MD, is a child psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to the wellbeing of adolescents. He is a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Director of Behavioral Health Services at Denver Health. Previously, he was a public-school teacher. He is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserves and lives in Colorado with his wife of 28 years and 2 teenagers.

A Bird’s Eye View of The Negative Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health

By Dr. Christian Thurstone  

We’ve learned a lot about marijuana in the past decade. First, the marijuana available today is about 10 times more potent than it was in the 1980s and 1990s. This means that today’s marijuana is more likely to cause panic attacks, psychosis, and cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). CHS is a new phenomenon in which people experience uncontrollable abdominal pain and vomiting. In most cases, these symptoms are relieved by a hot shower or bath. The long-term treatment is to stop using marijuana. Today’s marijuana is definitely not your parents’ or grandparents’ marijuana.  


Second, there is no known safe amount of marijuana use for the developing adolescent brain. Marijuana binds to the very receptor in the brain that helps control brain development. As a result, adolescent marijuana use clearly predicts the development of psychosis and schizophrenia in adulthood. Animal studies demonstrate permanent changes in brain structure and function with adolescent exposure to marijuana. Even weekly marijuana use among teenagers is strongly associated with decreased school achievement and an increased risk of dropping out of school. Education, in turn, is a strong predictor of quality of life, health, and other important life outcomes. Put together, this means that it is worth the effort to protect kids from the toxic effects of marijuana on their developing brains.  


Finally, there is some good news. We know that treatment for adolescent marijuana misuse still works – even in the age of widespread marijuana commercialization. Fortunately, the stigma around mental health treatment is decreasing, and this change will hopefully encourage more people to seek the care they need to feel their best. In terms of prevention, we know that warm relationships with an adult caregiver are the strongest protection youth have. These strong relationships occur when an adult spends time with a child and demonstrates genuine care for the inner experience, emotions, and interests of the child. It’s called attachment and is critical for the flourishing of both adults and children, and the recent pandemic has shown us how important attachment relationships are for all of us.

Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949 to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in Americans’ lives and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. Many organizations, such as Mental Health America (MHA), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognize Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM) every May to increase awareness about the vital role mental health plays in our overall health and well-being. Please check out their websites for a variety of resources and toolkits to help you honor this month! 


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) released an important article on a study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) last week, further driving home the point that marijuana has negative effects on mental health. The article specifically discusses the new findings indicating strong evidence of an association between cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia among men and women, though the association was much stronger among young men. Using statistical models, the study authors estimated that as many as 30% of cases of schizophrenia among men aged 21-30 might have been prevented by averting cannabis use disorder. The NIH study highlights the need to proactively screen for, prevent, and treat cannabis use disorder especially among young people.

Upcoming Events 

Click Here To Register for PAN Webinar

PAN Education and Training Series: PAN’s debut webinar will take place on Tuesday, May 16th, at 7:00 p.m. EST. It will be hosted at Zoom and is a free event! The webinar will feature Laura Stack of Johnny’s Ambassadors; Donna Thomas of James’s Warriors; and Dr. Libby Stuyt as they discuss how high-potency THC forever changed their lives and how they are turning their tragedies into learning opportunities for all. To register for the webinar please visit the Eventbrite link at: The Low-Down on High-Potency THC and the Associated Mental Health Risks 


Johnny’s Ambassadors Preventing Youth Marijuana Use Conference: This event will be in person Monday and Tuesday, July 10th and 11th, in Lone Tree, Colorado. Individuals can also register to attend virtually. PAN and SAM will be speaking at this conference. 


SAVE THE DATE: JULY 24-28, 2023 | 35TH ANNUAL D.A.R.E. INTERNATIONAL TRAINING CONFERENCE, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA | D.A.R.E. America (dare.org) D.A.R.E. will host its annual conference in July in Las Vegas, Nevada. PAN will be speaking at this event on Thursday, July 27th.  

Doing it Right! State and Local Victories 

We want to congratulate the states that fight against all odds to oppose legalization in their states and/or advocate for changes to policies that protect our youth and communities.

Doctors, scientists, drug prevention specialists, the recovery community and families were among those who showed up to oppose legalization.

Youth came to opposed the legislation to legalize as well.

Anne Hassel, Scott Gagnon, and Aubree Adams traveled to New Hampshire to help oppose legalization.

New Hampshire: On April 20th, Deb Naro, Executive Director of CADY; Emily Shanahan, SAM New Hampshire’s rep; Aubree Adams, Director of Every Brain Matters; and other concerned New Hampshire residents testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana. Their heartfelt personal stories seemed to impact decision-makers. We hope that lawmakers will take these tragic testimonies to heart. PAN will keep you updated on the outcome of this bill.


Louisiana: House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, who wrote the hemp legislation in 2022, criticized Louisiana’s Health Department for allowing hemp-derived products containing Delta-8 THC to make it to the market. A legislative committee hearing on the issue was held in March to discuss a proposed emergency rule to rein in such products. 


Also in Louisiana, Lawmakers in the House quashed an effort to legalize marijuana possession for those 21 and older and establish an adult-use retail market. According to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, the House Criminal Justice Committee voted 9-4 to reject the legislation to legalize marijuana. Recreational (adult-use) marijuana remains illegal in Louisiana. 


Tennessee: Lawmakers rejected a bill to legalize medical marijuana in March. Recreational marijuana remains illegal in Tennessee. 

PANtastic Shout-Out! 

Communities for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth (CADY)  

Since 1999, CADY has served 18 rural towns in New Hampshire with a mission to help local youth make healthy and safe choices by working with schools, parents, youth, and communities to prevent and reduce youth alcohol, tobacco, and other substance use and to promote healthy environments and promising futures. CADY has a host of resources and links to helpful information on marijuana and other drugs including their well-known Prevention Accelerator materials to help you develop already-researched social media campaigns. CADY will hold its Annual CADY Prevention Summit in Plymouth, New Hampshire, on Friday, May 26th. Besides providing resources, they advocate for policy change in their state and testified at last month’s New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Dr. Kevin Sabet on the Dr. Phil Show 

This month SAM’s CEO, Dr. Kevin Sabet, was featured on the Dr. Phil Show, where he spoke about the emerging market for psychedelics, including psylocibin. Advocates for and against the legalization of psychedelics debated whether or not to legalize them.

Dr. Kevin Sabet also testified in opposition to SAFE Banking on May 11. This was after having his opinion piece, After a Decade, Marijuana Legalization is Not Going Well, published in Newsweek.

National Alerts: SAFE Banking Returns

The profit-driven marijuana industry is lobbying for the passage of the SAFE Banking Act, a bill that would grant the industry access to the federal banking system and institutional investors. The bill was re-introduced to the Senate on April 26th, and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 11th. This bill would permit banks to be out of compliance with federal law, while opening the doors to Wall Street investment into the marijuana industry, accelerating the creation of the next Big Tobacco. This bill is all about maximizing profits, no matter the effects on public health or public safety. 

Click Here to Urge Congress to Oppose SAFE Banking 

State Alerts

Pennsylvania: A bill to legalize and commercialize marijuana was introduced in the Pennsylvania House last week. This was in part a response to the fact that Governor Shapiro put marijuana tax revenue into his proposed budget. We'd like to get Pennsylvania families involved in opposing this bill (and other legalization bills if they surface). To be most effective, we'd like to be able to match you with your state representative and state senator, so that we can target the representatives and senators we need to defeat this legislation. If you are interested in advocating in your state, please reach out to Parent Action Network and provide your contact information including a zip code. 


Minnesota: The Minnesota House of Representatives recently passed a bill to legalize and commercialize recreational marijuana. The legislation has been forwarded to a bicameral conference, where the House and Senate will attempt to finalize its details. Governor Tim Walz previously announced his support for legalization, indicating that the legislation is likely to be signed into law. However, we will continue to advocate against this measure and in favor of sensible drug policies in Minnesota. 

Monthly Commentary

Cannabis Use and Mental Health Risks

By Corinne LaMarca

Arm yourself with information to protect your family: Knowledge is power and early intervention is essential 

Mental health is something that we cannot take for granted. It can be severely disrupted by cannabis use especially in the adolescent years. Based on the reviewed articles and research on some recent studies, these concerns need to be known and addressed since many of the outcomes are irreversible.  


In 2019, there were 703,000 deaths by suicide leading up to the year 2019. A shocking statistic is that 3.8 % of the global population has used cannabis in the year 2022. Since our current population is approximately 8 billion, this equates to 304 million people having used cannabis- and most have no idea of the effect it will have on their brains and bodies. Deleterious consequences for regular cannabis use during adolescents includes the following: diminished scholastic achievement, lower degree attainment and school abandonment, early onset of psychosis, neurophysiological decline, increased risk between cannabis use and increased motor vehicle crashes. Also included in these risk factors are adverse birth outcomes for offspring of cannabis users. Even if usage is stopped in adolescence, permanent alterations of the brain occur.    


The adolescent brain is most susceptible and is still under development up to the age of approximately 25 years old or more. There is a higher susceptibility for addiction during this phase of development. Women have been found to be more effected in many cases. The greater the severity of the mood disorder, the greater the inclination to use cannabis. With the onset of legalizing cannabis across the USA, today approximately 20 % of adolescence in our nation use cannabis and 7% of high school seniors are daily cannabis users.  


This diagram below illustrates the percentage of the probability of suicide ideation when cannabinoid use disorder (CUD) and a major depression episode (MDE) are concurrent.  

40 % of substance dependent individuals who seek treatment have had at least one suicide attempt in their recent past. Increased cannabis use increases the number of suicide attempts that are made. When cannabis use and a major depressive episode happen in combination, the risk of lifetime suicide ideation is 62.8 %. Suicide ideation is prevalent in actual suicides.  


The public needs access to the science-based evidence and resources that confirm the detrimental effects of cannabis use because the misnomers are rampant in the public domain and spread like a bad rumor. As Patricia Mann stated in her book, Pot Safari, when people are armed with education and information, and learn about the detrimental effects of marijuana, they actually stop using it.  

Joining the Parent Action Network will give you access to a wealth of information from renowned members of the scientific community to help you have a better understanding of how legalization and commercialization is hurting our youth and our communities. Please consider joining PAN so we can support your mental health and well-being. 

About PAN

The Parent Action Network (PAN) is an initiative of SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, founded by Congressman Patrick Kennedy in 2013. PAN’s goal is to share the voices of experience regarding marijuana risks and mobilize parents and other family members to share and warn about marijuana issues in our communities. PAN regularly engages with families, lawmakers, government decision makers, and the media to ensure that your family’s voice is heard. We are staffed by families with lived experiences of marijuana use detrimentally affecting their own family, and other concerned loved ones who want to make a difference.

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